TAUNTON – Pakistan have lived up to their ‘unpredictable’ tag and have seen contrasting results in the tournament so far. They bounced back with a clinical 14-run win against the hosts, England, after a seven-wicket loss to West Indies in their tournament opener. They missed out on an opportunity to build on that against Sri Lanka, as their clash resulted in a complete washout. They will need to show similar intensity, and execution, as they did against England, to beat a tough opposition in Australia.
Australia, having lost their first World Cup game while chasing since 1999, will aim to bounce back.
With all its might, Australia’s bowling attack, for once, seemed clueless against India, who batted them out of the game in the first half at The Oval on Sunday, 9 June. The batsmen tried their best to keep the defending champions in the hunt for most part of the chase, but Australia never looked like they had the game under control, losing wickets at crucial junctures. However, they can take heart from the performances of Alex Carey, who has taken his batting credentials up a notch.
Overnight rains and wet outfield forced teams from Pakistan and Australia to practice indoors on Tuesday ahead of their ICC World Cup encounter at Cooper Associates County Ground.
However, the good news for both the teams and cricket fans is that the weather forecast for Wednesday has improved and chances of rain are minimized to 10-20% from predicted 70% earlier. With three point in three games and having game against Sri Lanka washed-out, Pakistan seem not in mood for another wash-out.
On Tuesday, six Pakistani players arrived for pre-match practice as team was informed by the organizers that ground was not prepared for practice due to wet outfield. Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Imam ul Haq, Mohammad Hasnain, Asif Ali and Mohammad Hafeez were among players who did indoor training ahead of the game.
A source close to the team Pakistan said that Pakistan team management was looking to include an extra fast bowler after seeing the green wicket earlier. However, the wicket was a bit shaved off on Tuesday evening.
Earlier, team Australia also held their light training sessions indoor. The weather forecast for Wednesday has improved and latest forecast showing only 10-20% chance of rain, hopes for some cricket between Pakistan and Australia has increased.
With his immense skills, and clean ball-striking abilities, Glenn Maxwell is capable of changing the flow of any cricket match. The right-hander averages 55 against Pakistan, and with scores of 71, 98 and 70 in his previous three outings against them, he will once again aim for a match-winning contribution on Wednesday.
Babar Azam has put up consistent performances at No.3 ever since he’s arrived in England. The right-hander, with his solid technique and fluent stroke-play, will look to hold the Pakistan innings together against the quality of Australia’s pace attack.
Pakistan’s bowling is so powerful that England’s batting line-up, currently the best in ODIs, faced some reality check and they will be in for another hunt as they face another strong batting line-up. Australia’s batting looked shaky against India as David Warner and Aaron Finch could barely challenge the initial attack by Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Australia will be wary of the danger Pakistan pose as the latter must have taken a cue on where to hurt the defending champions the most. Australia, however, can put pressure on Pakistan if Mitchell Starc strikes early and remove a batsman or two. Mohammaz Hafeez and Shoaib Malik can use their experience and help Pakistan in middle overs with bat as well as ball.
Australia discovered a big-hitter in Alex Carey in their match against India and he could be of much use to Aaron Finch just in case there is early collapse. Steve Smith would remain the go-to batsman for Finch as the batsman has two half-centuries in as many games.
Australia’s batting prowess was most visible when they fought back from 79/5 to post a total of 288 thanks to Smith’s 73 and Nathan Coulter-Nile’s rear guard assault which saw him scoring 92 runs, so, Pakistan cannot just relax with early wickets.
If Pakistan remain consistent throughout the match, there are high chances they can ease past Aussies but a lot depends on how the pitch remains at Taunton.
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